Shell Recycling Program

In the spring of 2014, with funding from the Nantucket Shellfish Association, the Natural Resources Department established a shell recycling program due to its high priority in the Shellfish Management Plan (October 2012). This program encourages local restaurants, raw bars, and the community to save and recycle oyster and clam shells in order to support oyster restoration in Nantucket waters. Shells are collected, weighed, and stored at the Department of Public Works to cure for at least one year before they can be put back into the water. Cured oyster shells "cultch" are the preferred substrate for oyster larvae to attach to and metamorphosize into adulthood.

In the future, the established oyster reef will serve as a foundation for a living classroom that will be monitored for water quality, species biodiversity, and self-sustaining growth. Oysters will not be harvested for commercial purpose, but to help enhance and restore the wild population here on Nantucket. This program focuses on reducing waste, recycles a valuable resource, and provides an opportunity for the community to participate in a sustainable movement.

In the program's first two years, over 65,000 pounds of oyster and quahog shell has been recycled!

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Sustainable Recycling Plan:

1. To generate a community based supply of shell by working with local restaurants, raw bars, oyster growers and special events to encourage the donation of oyster shells in order to support restoration projects around Nantucket. Shell quantities and types will be recorded and play an important role in future restoration decisions regarding scale and location.

2. To educate the community on the eco-benefits of recycling shell and why it is so valuable for oyster   restoration and the health of our harbors and shellfisheries.

3. To raise community awareness and provide information about the important work that is done at the Brant Point Propagation Facility, such as, enhancing shellfish populations in Nantucket waters.

4. To develop an “environmentally minded” volunteer base to assist with shell collection and future restoration projects.

5. Create an educational awareness platform in effort to attract multiple funding sources to sustain this program.


How Shell Recycling and Oyster Restoration work on Nantucket:

Oysters are consumed and the shells are picked up by the Natural Resources Department from 23 restaurants and 3 raw bars. The shells are weighed and stored at the Department of Public Works for one year. There is not a significant wild oyster population on Nantucket, so in the future oyster spat will have to be produced by the Brant Point Propagation Facility and remotely set on recycled shell for oyster reef establishment.


  • One oyster filters around 30 gallons of water a day, which helps to improve water quality
  • Oysters' excellent filtering abilities lower turbidity allowing light penetration for eelgrass growth
  • Shells help prevent ocean acidification on a local level because when shells decompose calcium carbonate (basic) is released back into the water column to help stabilize pH
  • Oyster reefs provide habitat for numerous types of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans, while acting as a shoreline buffer against erosion

Participating Restaurants and Raw Bars

  • 167 Raw
  • Boarding House
  • Brant Point Grille
  • Cisco Brewery
  • Cru
  • Dune
  • Fresh Catch
  • Great Harbor Yacht Club
  • Grey Lady
  • Hang 10 Raw Bar
  • Isle Have Another Raw Bar
  • Jetties
  • Le Languedoc
  • Lobster Trap
  • Met on Main
  • Nantucket Golf Club
  • Nantucket Yacht Club
  • Nautilus
  • Nixs
  • Oran Mor
  • Or the Whale
  • Pearl
  • Prime
  • Queequeg's
  • Rose and Crown
  • Sankaty Head Golf Club
  • Seagrille
  • Slip 14
  • Station 21
  • Straight Wharf
  • The Breeze
  • The Tavern
  • Topper's
  • Ventuno
  • Westmoor Club
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Additional Documents

In the Media

  • Article from the Inquirer and Mirror
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